The End of Summer

“Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach. I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach.”  (The Eagles/Don Henley). And so, we left the sunny beach at Rugged Point to the wolves and the bears and went back out into the ocean and down to Espereranza Inlet.

Rugged Point Parc Marin


Riding the west swell into Gillam Channel and taking the inside route brought us after a couple days to historic Nootka Sound where for millennia the Nuu Chah Nulth have abided at Yuquot. Here we contemplated the intersection of aboriginal and european cultures. In 1790 the English and Spanish signed an accord here that prevented a war between the two colonial powers as they vied for control of this part of the New World. Only two centuries later the presence of the white man seems greatly diminished but the Muchalat Band remains. It was to the Band’s elder Ray Williams that we paid our landing fee and got permission to walk around and explore.

Nootka Light Station



Above: Inside of the Catholic church donated by the Spanish, now more of a First Nations cultural house. Set aside on the floor are a few very graphic christian images, romans hammering spikes through Christ, etc. No doubt these were helpful in showing the heathens how civilized people treat each other. We paid Ray a few bucks extra to stay on the dock overnight but it was a noisy, unsettled arrangement. It was a weird dock and it woke me up squawking and groaning, I had to go out to adjust lines in the middle of the night. Unresolved tensions, maybe?
Anyway, we departed Nootka at first light and rounded Estevan Point, the 3rd most exposed rounding on the West Coast. It was a little bit rough and a little bit chilly and a slow passage but as we pulled into Hot Springs Cove the sun came back out. The Hot Springs is a major tourist destination with many boats and float planes bringing folks over from Tofino to experience the miracle of geothermal bathing. We broke out an early happy hour and waited until almost everyone had left before we rowed ashore and hiked out the boardwalk to take a soak. It was marvelous! Showers as strong as a therapy jacuzzi and as hot as you could stand it. Very relaxing.



Next day we cruised down to Tofino and checked out the surfing town that sucks on the teat of tourism. Very cool place but it did not have the off-season feel that we’d hoped to find. Many no-vacancy signs hung outside the motels all along the strip. By one day we had missed the dedication of a sculpture that had been acquired and brought back to its home in Tofino. She was cast in the 1980’s as the anti-logging protests were building. The message of Weeping Cedar Woman is “Stop, and consider Nature.” More and more I discover truth in fiction and in art. Don’t you?

Weeping Cedar Woman

Back out on the ocean we went slowly down into the fog at Amphitrite Point and up to the little town of Ucluelet, known affectionately by locals as “Ukee”. Although it also is reliant on tourism it did feel off season and had an entirely different vibe from Tofino, more family-like, more blue collar. We liked it.

Raven Lady (Surf woman in background)


1850’s anchor found in 1996 by a fishing vessel in 540 meters

From Ukee we expedited out visit in Barkley Sound in deference to our desire to keep moving on. It is a lovely place, much loved by cruising sailors. I especially like the rugged islands in the eastern part that have sea caves and lots of snug beaches to explore.

Tarani, our stout and faithful vessel at anchor, Tzartus I.

At the southwest corner of Barkley Sound sits pretty little Bamfield. There’s not much here, the town’s divided by a 2 mile inlet, half the town doesn’t have roads, only sidewalks. There’s a pub with no beers on tap, a mud and gravel road up to the Marine Sciences Center, a Health Center, a few restaurants, a couple stores and, well actually it is a pretty cool town. I could spend more time here someday. Met an inspirational figure here, a fellow sailor and retired firefighter from Vancouver (big Vancouver, that is) who retired 27 years ago and still looks fit as a fiddle, full of life. This got me thinking.


Its been four months since Karen and I left Port Townsend to explore and experience the maritime environment of the Pacific Northwest. We’ve seen much and have loved it, but as Debbie Downer (not Karen) says, “all good things must come to an end.” Tonight we sit at anchor in Bamfield, tomorrow we start the long run down the Strait of Juan de Fuca and back towards civilization. But, in less than a week we will be back to Port Townsend and back to “normal”, or will we?

Pre-dawn departure Cape Beale, last day of summer 2016

I think our experiences have changed us. Maybe the effect will fade after a few months but I now know more about the natural world than when I started. We’ve seen humpbacks and orcas, porpoises and otters,  ravens and eagles, grizzlies and black bear. We’ve become intimate with the tidal cycle, wandered wilderness beaches and rediscovered ourselves. And we have met a lot of good people. I have greater hope for the future even when humans seem oblivious to our interdependence with all life.

I am more sure than ever that I will be involved in the seemingly hopeless struggle to help humanity confront the reality of climate change, but I need to maintain my sanity and immerse myself in nature on a regular basis. I will continue to encourage people to transition away from burning fossil fuels for energy, and to demand from our government protection of the environmental Commons. The sooner we can mitigate the damage we are doing, the better the chances for human survival and the less damage we do to the other species sharing our ecosystem. I especially want to get involved in societal efforts to prepare for and adapt to the changes expected. These run the gamut; extreme weather, droughts and famine, sea level changes, ocean acidification, increased global conflict, mass extinctions and the potential for the collapse of human civilization. I feel privileged, challenged, humbled and horrified that I am alive during this period of human history. We have burned the fossilized remains of life from eons past and we have opened Pandora’s Box. Yes, it seems likely that our ship will be thrown up on the rocks but as mariners know you have to stay with your ship, she’s the best chance we have and we may yet survive the coming winter’s storms. So, hang on matey! Even though it looks like the end of summer for globalized human civilization we can hope for the dawn of something better.

Strait of Juan de Fuca sunset on the last day of summer, 2016.


South of Brooks Peninsula

We paid the monthly charge of $119 to stay at the Coal Harbour marina run by the Quatsino First Nations folks. Nice place. Quiet, clean washrooms and showers, laundry, and reliable bus service into Port Hardy. $119, including power. When you think about that, its a hell of a good deal. We parked the boat here for 10 days so I could make a trip back east to visit family and attend a funeral. Karen worked hard while I was gone on minor maintenance.On returning to the west coast it was sunny September weather but I detected a whiff of autumn and began to faintly hear that old Zeppelin tune, feels like its time to Ramble On.

quiet Coal Harbour

The night before we planned to go south around Brooks peninsula found us pre-rigging the sail with a double reef. The forecast included northwest winds of up to 20-30 knots. I expected and hoped we would be able to shake out one or both reefs after we got on our course but Cape Cook on the Brooks peninsula along with Solander Island standing just off the coast deserve respect. We would be trying to stay about 5 miles offshore and we wanted to be ready. Once our work was done the sun was setting gloriously. We relaxed with a cold beer and cooked up a nice little piece of ling cod that a fisherman had given us in exchange for a spare lightbulb we’d given him. It felt great to be at anchor in a quiet cove away from megalopolis.

Retired nurse showing how to use a foley bag.
Retired nurse showing how to use a foley bag.

Next day dawned dark, that is we left before dawn. Sun was rising as we went out from Quatsino Sound. about an hour later. Swells were of decent size on this trip, 2-3 meters. Wind turned out to be just about perfect for us, about 15-20 knots going our way. After 4 hours or so, we were abeam Solander Island we altered course and went into the Bunsby Isands.

Downwind around Brooks Peninsula

The Bunsbys are the site where sea otters were reintroduced to the environment back in 1969. They had been nearly hunted to extinction over a short period in the late 1700’s to the early 1800’s., basically eradicated from California to Alaska. It was typical short-sighted human behavior, a lust for their pelt and greed for money. Between 1969 and 1972 some 89 sea otters were released here and by 2008 their population had grown to an estimated 5,000. Another survey underway now is expected to show much greater numbers. In Alaska some 450 animals were reintroduced and by 2012 the population had grown to an estimated 25,000. Our anecdotal experience just over the past few years is that sea otters are more ubiquitous. We have noticed a curious difference between Alaskan animals and those of Vancouver Island;. Although all the otters in Alaska, B.C. and Washington are of the Northern species the Alaskan otters seem to be much shier around people. The Vancouver Island animals don’t dive until our boat is much closer. To be clear we don’t try to approach them but they are often floating nearby as we follow our course. At anchor on the west coast you will sometimes here a “clack-clack-clack” next to your boat and find another busy cracking his clam against a rock on his belly.

Crew from s/v Arrow at Walters Cove, only critters we've found cuter than sea otters.
Crew from s/v Arrow, only critters we’ve found cuter than sea otters.

The recovery of the sea otters is not without controversy. They exist in ecological balance with sea urchins and kelp. They eat crabs and shellfish and so find themselves in competition with humans. The Nuu Chah Nulth and other coastal First Nations groups are however supportive of the effort and would like to regain the balance within which their peoples thrived for millennia prior to contact with “civilized” white man. There is concern that some fisherman may already be taking matters into their own hands, killing animals. It seems mankind has not yet learned to live in balance with the ecosystem. We seem to be especially hard-headed and ignorant. We have such a hard time learning that we are inseparable from nature. We forget the lessons of history at our own peril. For further info in sea otters here’s a general reference and an article on the recovery:

Rugged Point Marine Park


Sea Otter Cove

Left Port Hardy and made it down to Bull Harbour, docked at the guano rich dock of the Tlatlasikwala Band dock. After getting permission from a rep for the Band (and a warning about wolves) we walked down the road and across the trail to Roller Bay beach, fully exposed to the Pacific Ocean.


DSC03952 DSC03955

Found some wolf tracks. Picked up some plastic trash.

Next day went down under Tatnall Reefs (instead of crossing powerful Nawitti Bar 2 hours prior to slack) and worked our way past Cape Sutil and past the infamous Cape Scott waters and then turned south down the west coast of Vancouver Island.


Cape Scott, the extreme NW point of Vancouver Island and the confluence (often) of differing currents and winds

Weather rounding Cape Scott was fine but we had some residual swell that made our little boat roll quite a bit and it was uncomfortable for a couple hours. No big deal, nobody lost their lunch. We went into Sea Otter Cove. Tied up to one of the mooring buoys that are said to be rated to hold the big fishing vessels. We ended up spending 3 nights there , riding out a 24 hour gale and another day of strong SE wind. Winds SE 35-45 with gusts to 55.


1 of 3 hardy Vancouver Island surfers

2nd day there we inflated the dinghy and I rowed ashore to look for the fender that had blown away in the gale. Plus I wanted to hike over to Laurie Bay and check out the exposed beach there after the storm. Also, we had met 3 dudes and a black lab puppy in a Lund skiff headed over there and I wanted to see what they might be doing wearing wet suits and hiking with surf boards on their shoulders. I caught up with them on the beach. They were disappointed with the wave action but I was amazed at their hardiness. They stopped by our boat on their way back out in the afternoon and had a beer while they wondered whether their skiff would be able to get back out around the point into San Josef Bay against the rising wind. We invited them to come back for dinner if they couldn’t get around but I knew they’d make it  fine.



The enchanted fish float bog trail from Sea Otter Cove to Laurie Bay



Sailing in from offshore to Quatsino Sound and to Winter Harbour.


Next day went up through Quatsino Narrows into Coal Harbour where we will moor the boat for a week while I fly back east for a family visit. The Quatsino First Nations bands run a nice quiet moorage here. Good people, good place.